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Trujillo v. Regional Transportation District

Court of Appeals of Colorado, Second Division

December 27, 2018

Kelly A. Trujillo, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Regional Transportation District, Defendant-Appellant.

          Court of Appeals No. 17CA2104 City and County of Denver District Court No. 17CV32460 Honorable Jennifer B. Torrington, Judge

          Mintz Law Firm, LLC, Robin E. Scully, Denver, Colorado, for Plaintiff-Appellee

          Regional Transportation District, Derrick Black, Jonathan Saadeh, Denver, Colorado, for Defendant-Appellant

          OPINION

          ASHBY JUDGE.

          ¶ 1 Defendant, Regional Transportation District (RTD), appeals from the trial court's denial of its C.R.C.P. 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand the case for further proceedings.

         I. Background

         ¶ 2 Plaintiff, Kelly A. Trujillo, filed a complaint alleging that she was injured while attempting to catch a shuttle bus at the Mall Bus Turnaround located at Civic Center Station in downtown Denver. She claims that she stepped on a tree grate that was not properly secured, thereby causing her to fall.

         ¶ 3 RTD filed a C.R.C.P. 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss based on its assertion of governmental immunity pursuant to the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act (CGIA), specifically sections 24-10-103(6) and -106(1)(d)(I), C.R.S. 2018. After receiving briefing on the motion from both sides, the court denied the request for a hearing and the motion. RTD filed this interlocutory appeal.

         II. Discussion

         ¶ 4 RTD contends that the trial court erred in denying its C.R.C.P. 12(b)(1) motion by finding that the walkway on which Trujillo was allegedly injured met the statutory definition of a sidewalk, thereby waiving RTD's entitlement to governmental immunity. Specifically, RTD asserts here, as it did to the trial court, that the Turnaround is not a public roadway because only RTD buses are allowed to drive there.[1] We disagree.

         ¶ 5 "Governmental immunity implicates issues of subject matter jurisdiction, which are determined in accordance with C.R.C.P. 12(b)(1)." Daniel v. City of Colorado Springs, 2014 CO 34, ¶ 10. Thus, we apply a mixed standard of review to the trial court's decision to deny RTD's motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. See Medina v. State, 35 P.3d 443, 452 (Colo. 2001). We review the court's factual findings for clear error. See Corsentino v. Cordova, 4 P.3d 1082, 1087 (Colo. 2000). And we review the court's legal conclusions de novo. Medina, 35 P.3d at 452. Further, "[b]ecause governmental immunity established by the CGIA derogates Colorado's common law, we strictly construe the Act's immunity provisions, and as a logical corollary, we broadly construe its waiver provisions." Young v. Brighton Sch. Dist. 27J, 2014 CO 32, ¶ 13.

         ¶ 6 This case requires us to interpret one of the CGIA's waiver provisions. In interpreting statutes, our primary goal is to discern and apply the legislative intent. Daniel, ¶ 11; McKinley v. City of Glenwood Springs, 2015 COA 126, ¶ 5. We do this by first looking to the statute's plain language. McKinley, ¶ 5. If it is clear and unambiguous, we apply it as written. Daniel, ¶ 12. If, however, it is susceptible of more than one reasonable interpretation, we may look to extrinsic sources to aid our interpretation. Id.

         ¶ 7 The CGIA serves as a shield against tort liability for public entities. Id. at ¶ 13; see § 24-10-106(1), C.R.S. 2018. There are a few situations, however, in which the statute waives immunity. As relevant here, section 24-10-106(1)(d)(I) waives immunity for "[a] dangerous condition of a public highway, road, or street which physically interferes with the movement of traffic . . . of any public highway, road, street, or sidewalk within the corporate limits of any municipality ...."

         ¶ 8 It is undisputed that RTD is a public entity. It is also undisputed that the area of the alleged accident is a pedestrian walkway and ...


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